That hurt. That hurt my soul. I'm upset, as I imagine all of you to be as well. I think the best thing to do is to try an objective look at today's debacle.
1. The Running Game. I guess we'll start with the good news. For most of the game the offensive line was getting push and Gore looked good. Not great, but good. Hunter continues to look fast and healthy. The problem for Hunter is that he has been the runner on many of the stretch plays that end up going for a loss. This has not been his fault. There seems to be a play or two in our play book that the other teams know. Whenever Hunter gets the ball deep and the play is intended to get him to the edge, defensive players are meeting him in the backfield. Besides this issue, I'm glad to see the run game improve. It is a facet that needs to be there if we hope to have success in the next 13 games.
2. The Secondary. Many of you will be complaining about the penalties called late against the secondary. In my opinion, they were pretty accurate. Our cornerbacks are grabbing and holding throughout the game. This is a sign that they feel over-matched. Add to that the mental errors we are seeing and our secondary is a bit of a mess. Rogers, Brown, and Nnamdi aren't physical enough to press effectively and they are not fast enough to maintain coverage. Luck used quick throws and pinpoint accuracy to keep the chains moving. The game plan seemed to be to get the ball out fast. Luck never seemed to look more than 8-12 yards downfield most of the game. Our CBs weren't able to step up and make the tackle or break up the pass quickly enough. Reid and Whitner are the big hitters, but Whitner played a terrible game. On the crucial drive in the fourth quarter, Whitner took a terrible angle and ended up blocking Bowman, allowing Bradshaw to get to the sideline. As the team rebuilds this unit this offseason, they are going to look for big, physical corners to dominate the first five yards. Guys that can play through blocks. Seattle has set the benchmark for this.
3. Defensive Unity. Our defense played well. For the first three and a half quarters they did what they were supposed to do. The pass rush wasn't there much, but the Colts were using quick hitters to eliminate this aspect. The problem I saw today was that the entire team seemed to be on their heels. This could be attributed to the injuries, but when one player missed a tackle or an assignment, no one was there to cover. I'm not worried, but I am concerned.
4. Kaepernick's Confidence. I think last week had a huge impact on Colin. It was his first truly bad game. Today was his second. He reminded me of a slugger in baseball. He was trying to score 9 points with every throw. I have participated in a few conversations here about Kaep's touch passes and his tendency to avoid check downs. That issue was on display today. He had no accuracy and to he seemed to be fighting himself instead of building a rhythm with some "easier" throws. This is the coach's job to fix. If I were Roman (and thank God I'm not) I wouldn't practice a passing play over 10 yards this week. Make Miller, McDonald, Celek, Gore, and Hunter the focus of the offense. Kaep's fastball is out of control right now and so he needs to focus on his change-up. Finally, take the gloves off. Let's see some more read option. I know it puts Kaepernick in harms way, but it is an element that could REALLY loosen up the team. Much was made about Green Bay taking it away in that first game. No, we took it away by not running it. I get the reasoning, but the season is starting to take a bad turn. Seattle already has a 2+ game lead in the division and winning up there in the playoffs looks impossible right now.
5. The Receivers. Much has been said about the lack of talent in this group. I disagree. The talent is there, they are just not being utilized. Boldin, Williams, and Patton are not deep post guys. They aren't going to beat their man with straight line speed and catch Kaep's fast ball in stride. They are hitch, comeback, slant, and drag guys. They need to get the ball in space and make things happen. The biggest problem is a disconnect in ability and scheme. The biggest play today was a seam route to Celek. The only reason it worked was because Indy was in a prevent and were happy to give him space and bring him down. Ultimately, Roman and Harbaugh have to see that they have shifty receivers in Williams and Patton, who need to get the ball in their hands closer to the line of scrimmage. Boldin uses his strength and savvy to make longer catches, but that has been taken away from us. Davis probably won't be back for Thursday's game and he is the only true deep threat on this team. Just like the secondary, this unit will be remade next year. It will be interesting to see who is brought in. Ironically, it will be guys like A.J. Jenkins that will get a long look. Guys with straight line speed and strong hands. If Jenkins had had a different mentality, he would have been perfect for this offense.
6. Coaching. As you can infer from the previous items, our coaches have work to do. Fangio needs to continue to work more guys into the rotation without losing anymore of the defensive unity. Donatell needs to get his secondary to be more physical and more technically sound. Harbaugh and Roman need to seriously revamp the offensive game plan. Teams know what we do and they are stopping it. Our only response has been to drop Kaep back and have him wing it 30 yards downfield into tight coverage. We need to see the ingenuity and creativity that marked the Alex Smith era. It seemed like they were more concerned with variety of play calling when they trusted their QB less. They now have a young, gifted QB in trouble. His rocket arm is not saving us and his legs have been taken away. Your move guys.
7. Step away from the ledge. These are the same coaches that made a contender out of an underachieving group in 2011. These are the same players who have each achieved excellence since. Yes, we have injury issues (Davis, Crabtree, Manningham, Ian Williams, Willis, Ray McDonald). Yes, Kaep is in the middle of a big slump. Yes, our division rival is dominating right now. I'm worried, just as you are, but greatness must endure the crucible of the league. When we overcome this slump, the team will be stronger for it.